You are here

How US job market fared with Obama

Sunday, January 8, 2017
President Barack Obama speaks during a visit to Home Depot in Alexandria, Va.


In March 2009 alone, 823,000 jobs disappeared. When the bleeding finally stopped in February 2010, 8.7 million jobs were gone. The unemployment rate hit a painful 10 per cent — a quarter-century high — in October 2009.

Eight years later, the job market is in infinitely better shape. The unemployment rate is 4.7 per cent. Jobs have been added for 75 straight months, the longest such streak on record.

But many other trends, not all of them positive, have reshaped the job market over the past eight years:



Hiring has been solid yet still hasn’t kept up with population growth. The proportion of Americans with jobs —essentially the flip side of the unemployment rate—dropped a full percentage point under Obama. An aging society has turbocharged retirements. And many workers, especially less-educated men, have become discouraged about finding jobs with decent pay and have stopped looking.



Routine work on factory assembly lines and as office clerks has declined, in some cases lost to computers, robots and inexpensive imported goods. Factory jobs have fallen 2.4 per cent since January 2009. The number of people working as office administrators is down 2.5 per cent.



Those routine jobs typically paid middle-income wages. As they have faded, both higher- and lower-paying jobs have grown faster. The number of jobs in computer networking and software development has soared 42 per cent in eight years. Data analysis has enjoyed job growth of 18 per cent. On the lower-paying end, jobs at restaurants and hotels have jumped 19 per cent.



The ranks of employed college graduates jumped 22 per cent under Obama, while the number of employed people with only a high school degree fell 4 per cent. That partly reflects demographic trends: Older, less-educated Americans retire and are replaced by younger people more likely to have college degrees. But it also points to rising demand for high-skilled workers.



Over the past year, average hourly pay has risen 2.9 per cent, the healthiest increase in seven years. Yet for most of the recovery since the Great Recession, wages have struggled, growing closer to 2 per cent. In a more robust economy, pay gains are typically close to 3.5 per cent a year.



Thanks in part to strong hiring gains at restaurants, bars, hotels and retailers, more Americans have part-time jobs. In many cases, they prefer it that way. The number of part-timers who would prefer full-time work has fallen nearly 30 per cent under Obama. And the number of people working part-time by choice—a much larger number—has grown 13 per cent in the past eight years.



Businesses, under pressure to grow profits and counter cheaper competition overseas, have sought to hold down labour costs. Temporary hiring has been one way to do that. Temp jobs skyrocketed 52 per cent during Obama’s administration, to nearly 3 million, including at auto plants and hospitals.



The influx of the millennial generation, the largest in the US, is changing the face of the working world. They are replacing retiring baby boomers, usually at lower pay, which has held down overall wages throughout the recovery. Millennials have also spurred more companies to adopt tech-style workplaces, with open floor plans, bean-bag chairs, and free food. (AP)


User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff.

Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.

Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments.

Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.

Before posting, please refer to the Community Standards, Terms and conditions and Privacy Policy

User profiles registered through fake social media accounts may be deleted without notice.